5 Reasons Why You Should be Using Website Analytics for Your Blog and the 3 That I Use

[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series.]

Analytics are awesome!

Your blog holds a wealth of information that, when understood and applied well, can take your blog, community, engagement, and ultimately traffic to the next level.

In fact, anyone blogger who wants to make it to the level of a Professional Blogger will most likely have a system of managing, reviewing, and executing on the information that he or she finds through her analytics applications.

And what if you’re not a ProBlogger? That’s fine too! Even casual bloggers and TentBloggers can benefit from the information that at one’s fingertips since everyone is interested in having a few more eyes read the content that they spent so much time writing, right?

Here are my top 5 reasons for using analytics as well as the 3 analytics applications which I currently use:

1. Success Requires Measurement

Measurement is important!

How will you know if you’re being successful with your efforts if you have no idea if you’re actually meeting your goals?

The key here is simply measurement. It’s simply one of those adages, like the one I shared earlier,What is Celebrated is Repeated, in that you can’t know if you’ve “done it” unless you have “measured it.”

Sure, this assumes that your measurement of success is somewhat related to traffic and honestly most of your goals are related to traffic. The more traffic you have generally will result in the following:

  • You will have more comments.
  • You will have more pingbacks and people referencing you.
  • You will have a greater potential to make more money.
  • You will have a better shot at ranking higher in search engine results.

Of course, all of this comes back to measuring your success, managing it well, and responding to the information presented to you via analytics. Thus, without analytics, you won’t be able to execute on these great things.

2. Know Your Visitors

When you track your website traffic you will be given the opportunity to know an incredible amount of information about them as individuals and your entire community as a whole. Just think of the amount of leverage you have knowing who they are, where they are coming from, what they are doing, and what they are looking for specifically!

Some analytic software allows this in-depth look at individuals:

Try to use systems which give you deep detail!

Here you can see what their IP is (marked out), the language, location, operating system, web browser, resolution, and more. You can also track what the individual did during their visit, what links they clicked, and where they left your site!

Some analytic software enables you to look at a global level to see where your traffic and visitors are coming from:

Site Usage by Country, Google Analytics

And what’s nice about some systems is that you can have these very visual representations of your traffic and data because everything is more understandable with pictures, right?

Visualizing the data can help!

Again, the point is that the more information you know about your visitors the better you can ultimately serve them. Here are some obvious ways:

  • More targeted content related to their location, language, and region.
  • More targeted content based on technology, platform usage, and niche.
  • Better content buffering, content type, length, post type, categorization, quantity, and frequency.
  • Create better post and page information architecture.
  • And more!

These are just some of the primary ways in which you can increase your traffic by serving your visitors better! Seems like a pretty symbiotic relationship to me!

3. Know Your Ecosystem

The blogosphere can be very dangerous.

Let’s just be clear that blogging, by default, is a competitive ecosystem and culture. Either you were aware of this or are ignorant of it. You are competing for time, attention, and preference, because ultimately your readers have tons of other things that they need to be doing day-in and day-out and if your blog isn’t worth their time then they will go somewhere else.

If we are to be the best stewards of our time and work through our blogs we owe it to ourselves and our readers to be at the top of our game, so to speak and make it worth while for us, the content creators and bloggers, as well as our readers and future visitors!

Website analytics can provide you with some significant sources of information that you can then use to filter out and measure against those within your niche, focus, or target audience. It’ll give you the information about your direct competition, the strength of your keywords, and how well you’re doing with your content.

It’ll also show you the sources of traffic that’s bringing you new visitors via social media and social networking platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, which are within your controllable ecosystem, as well as people who are referencing and talking about your property as well. When you get a surge of traffic from a respected source you’re going to want to mine that puppy for all it’s worth, thank the source profusely and explicitly, and then seek to replicate that model of traffic again, and again, and again.

And then you celebrate, and remember that what is celebrated is repeated!

4. Converting Luck into Strategy

This is one of the most important strategies when it comes to understanding how your website analytics can directly impact the success and growth of your blog. It’s so important that I made a video of this point:

[tentblogger-vimeo 16131398]

Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Search engines give you traffic in some of the most unpredictable ways. Use this to your advantage!
  2. By reviewing your specific keywords and search terms that bring you traffic (by accident or luck) you can “lock” those searches in with extremely targeted content!
  3. By doing this you will be practicing a significant keyword and SEO strategy that 99.99999999999% of bloggers never do, giving you distinct advantages within your niche and market.
  4. It’s easy to do and just as easy to execute on.

The point, again, is this: Without website analytics you would never know about these pieces of data and would never be able to execute on them.

Convert all the luck that you get from the search engines into a tangible and real strategy and execution.

5. Goals and Funnels

Soccer is the best darn sport ever created. Period.

When I say “goals” I specifically mean the ability to create targeted campaigns and goals within the analytics application to measure the success of a particular conversion or action by your end user.

In other words, let’s say you wanted to test the effectiveness of a new big red button on your homepage that was created in an explicit attempt at getting your visitors into your ecommerce portion of the website and ultimately purchasing and item. How would you know if it’s working?

Without a system in place you would never know. Other examples might be downloading a file, getting visitors to subscribe on your blog, staying on your blog for a specific amount of time, or even a specific number of pageviews per visitor.

The goal could be a complex mix of targets or extremely simple.

In addition, a “funnel” is a particular path that you most likely expect visitors to take on their way to converting on one of the goals that you have. When you define these pages specifically you’re able to see the “abandonment rate” and where (and then perhaps why) they leave the path.

This might not be a big deal for you right now since you’re focus and time is simply on creating content, but when you start making a few dollars it will definitely be important for you to consider. In fact, you might be limiting your blogs potential to simply earn some green because you’re unwilling to invest the small amount of time to understand the enormous benefits that Goals and Funnels have for you with website analytics.

But don’t get too discouraged since 1 out of about every 10,000 website owners even knows what a “goal” or “funnel” is. And maybe 1 out of a 1,000 that actually know do anything about it. Perhaps you’re in good (bad?) company?

The 3 Analytics Applications that I Use:

Hopefully I’ve given you enough to chew on and convinced you to start using website analytics if you aren’t already.

For those that are curious, here are the 3 analytics applications that I use and trust for my needs as a professional blogger.

1. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free application that’s become the defacto analytics service for pretty much any website out there. If you’re not using it then you’re either a serious professional using some other advanced application (or you’ve developed your own) or you don’t really care about any of the aforementioned value propositions.

I use this on all my properties.

Learn how to easily install this in 10 easy steps!

2. Church Analytics

Church Analytics is a newer application that I’ve launched (***This was acquired!***) to help give me, my clients, and businesses/organizations both large and small an easy-to-understand dashboard of the information that they need to know.

There are also a number of features that it has that Google Analytics does not have, such as a mobile version, real-time tracking, widgets, video tracking, Feedburner integration, Twitter monitoring, and more. You can see a robust comparison table here.

I use this on all of my properties. I no longer use this on TentBlogger.

3. WordPress.com Stats Plugin

***UPDATE***

I now use Jetpack which includes this plugin with advanced features found from WordPress.com. Check out this post for more information!

WordPress.com Stats Plugin is specifically built for WordPress-powered blogs and it does a great job of giving you a quick peak at what’s happening on your blog.

It can show stats from today, over weeks, and months. The type of data it reveals are referrers, top posts and view count per post, search engine terms, clicks, and a bit more.

I use it on all of my WordPress-powered blogs and sites and primarily leverage it for a quick snap-shot view of what’s happening on my property.

Learn how to install this easily here! I also share one more plugin that I always use on all of my WordPress-powered blogs as well.

Why Have More Than One?

I hated math in High School...

The logic behind this is that there are simply so many factors that can warp or distort your traffic data that it’s simply wise to have a number of different systems so that you can compare data and find the common threads of information.

This harkens back to your old statistics class back in High School where you were told to that having “multiple sources provides a greater level of accuracy” – I guess your old math teacher was right!

For the most part the existing top and most-used systems are fairly accurate and can be adequately trusted to provide the information that you need to be the best darn blogger that you can be if they were the only system that you used. But, as mentioned above, some of the analytics applications don’t cover all of the needs a website owner and blogger might have, so filling in those gaps and needs with alternatives is a wise choice.

For example, Google Analytics doesn’t have an easily accessible mobile version to view stats for the current day. Church Analytics does, thus filling in that need that I have when processing data.

So, what do you use? What have you used and what would you recommend for bloggers specifically?

[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series.]

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Very useful post here.

    Haha. I had a funny feeling the post from yesterday was keyword related. Well done.

    Do you do this (#4 above) with human3rror blog too or just properties that are targeted or niche specific that make owning keywords more valuable?

    • John Saddington

      i do this for every single one of my properties. i care less about human3rror though now than i did a while back.

  • http://www.chrisloach.com Chris Loach

    i have a love/hate relationship with looking at my analytics but i really liked this post!

  • Chris

    Thanks for the useful post. As I was reading along and looking at your sample “visitor detail/map” I was thinking, “Oh . . . that’s in the vicinity of where I’m from.” Then I realized that the visitor was me. I hope you learned some valuable information!

    Do you have any insights on statcounter.com?

    • John Saddington

      not a fan, to be honest.

  • http://www.alivingstone.com Joey Costanzo

    Great Post…On my way to google right now…Thanks

    • John Saddington

      so what did you find?

      • http://www.alivingstone.com Joey Costanzo

        I found that “Biblical Wedding Toast” came up the most in key words and a post i did on Prayer was the most viewed.

        • John Saddington

          hahaha. that’s funny.

  • David Knapp

    Thank you for doing these videos! You are a good blogging teacher.

    I have a fairly new blog, I think less than 30 posts.

    I checked my analytics for my site and most of my Keywords are already Post titles.

    I’ll keep checking though to see if I can convert some of this Google luck.

    • John Saddington

      it would be interesting to dive deep into it.

  • http://paulsanduleac.com Paul Sanduleac

    I agree. But unfotunately Church Analytics is a paid service.

    • John Saddington

      yup. it’s true.

  • David Knapp

    How relevant are WordPress Search Terms in comparison to Google analytics? Thanks!

    • David Knapp

      Woops! I feel like a moron. You had me at #4 and then I read a little further. Never mind.

      • John Saddington

        :)

  • Kevin Cooper

    Good post. Liked the video tut on keywords. Very practical and simple strategy but like you said, most people wouldn’t think about doing this. Going to implement this with my clients. Thanks!

    • John Saddington

      kevin,

      this is so basic it makes me cry……. YET, so many people don’t do it!

  • Craig Allen

    Great post. I never really looked at analytics from this perspective until reading about it on this site.

    So, what if we find keywords are being used that don’t really relate to our site (or that we just have no interest in blogging about)? Should we blog about it anyway? Kind of feels like “selling out” (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    • John Saddington

      that depends on you.

      for some people they’ll be happy for the traffic… other people will revolt in horror that google is branding them that way.

      it’s up to you. if you feel like a sell-out, then don’t do it. but being aware of it enables you to do something about it.

      • Craig Allen

        Good points, thanks!

        • John Saddington

          sure thing craig!

  • http://gbrenna.com Graham

    Thanks for posting this John! I’m really liking this new blog of yours. Hopefully I can learn a thing or two and start making a little more money on my blog. :)

    • John Saddington

      sure thing graham! i remember our convo at story everytime i see your avatar popup.

  • http://www.randykinnick.com Randy Kinnick

    Great information, John. I would never have thought of taking a “reverse approach” to keywords, but it’s so simple, yet makes so much sense. Thanks!!

    Now that I’m self-hosting, I have installed Google Analytics and beginning to peruse the stats. I liked using the WordPress stats on my WP-hosted site and will continue to use them in conjunction with GA.

    • John Saddington

      sweet! rock on!

  • Derek Jensen

    A good thing to practice too is taking advantage of any traffic “spikes” that occur. Either post more, interact more in the community, or start working on a product or project in-conjoined with the blog and make mention of that to your readers.

    So many times in the past I’ve seen a traffic spike as a time for me to relax. Instead take advantage of it!

    • John Saddington

      dude. love that. definitely a good idea, if you can! more often than not people don’t realize it until too late!

  • Meg

    Awesome post John! I’m learning so much about effective blogging from this site. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us!

    • John Saddington

      sure thing meg!

      and i love your “morning cup” idea… i feel like i need to click your website every morning as i browse!

  • Karin

    John,
    I am trying out Evernote today based on your recommendation and am trying to click the Evernote button at the top of the page of this article to clip into my copy of Evernote.

    I am getting this error, specifically on this page “Internet Explorer has modified this page to help prevent cross-site scripting. Click here for more info . . .

    Any way around this?

    Thanks – love the site – so much good information

    • John Saddington

      AH! Don’t use internet explorer…! you should try google chrome or firefox…?

      :)

      not sure about that error…!

  • Jimmy King

    John, can I ask what you used before Church Analytics?

    • John Saddington

      i had a few others that I used but were never completely happy. what are you thinking?

      • Jimmy King

        I was just curious, because Church Analytics was so recently launched. (Though I’m sure you used it for a while before the launch)

        Right now I use Mint, though Church Analytics is certainly more impressive. Hopefully it will be in the budget for me soon.

        • John Saddington

          not dogmatic about it! use what you feel will get you the best results!

  • Jimmy King

    What plugin do you use to make all of the /loves, /ispoweredby, etc links show up in the comments and posts?

    • John Saddington

      a custom plugin that i’m going to release. :) announcing soon.

      • Jimmy King

        I look forward to it = )

  • alvin weiss

    John,
    Thanks for the specific information in this post. I like the way you blog with specific information and appropriate links. I just started blogging and feel like I have made great strides in blogging – AFTER I started following your blog.
    Thanks again,
    Alvin

    • John Saddington

      alvin,

      sure thing! enjoy!

  • Zach

    If you’ve ever wanted to know where your readers’ eyes (as well as their cursor) typically end up first, or at any point in time for that matter, Crazy Egg is a nice little heat map / click tracker. It allows you to customize all these different styles for creating a visual heat map that tracks clicks. Basically, the more clicks on a certain spot / area on the page(s) you tell Crazy Egg to watch, the “hotter” those areas get.

    Genius!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      yeah, crazy egg looks awesome.

  • http://www.mattfraser.name Matt Fraser

    John,

    Church Analytics looks interesting. I never heard about it until I read this post. I’ve always wanted to try http://www.haveamint.com but have never done so. Have you had any experience with it? I’m going to check out Church Analytics right away. That being said, Crazy Egg is awesome. I used it on a clients site in the mortgage niche, very helpful to see where users are going but not recommended unless you have a decent amount of traffic and want to track conversions and things like that.

    Thanks for a great post.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sure! let me know if you have any questions!

  • http://www.mattfraser.name Matt Fraser

    John,

    I forgot to ask a question, have you ever used http://www.Woopra.com?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      definitely have and i don’t like it. too heavy!

  • Be Ninja

    Great post. I reaped a lot of useful information.

  • http://harisjudgement.blogspot.com/ Haris

    As soon as I loaded tentblogger.com My firefox has been lagging insanely… what gives?